PhD at Syracuse University

New York Air National Guard

"There were no black students, no black graduate students in the department. So I was alone there."

"Now, after the war’s over, and wars have a way of ending, I came back to school, and I went to graduate school at T—at Syracuse, Syracuse University. And I flew with the New York Air National Guard as a radar observer, and that was a completely different situation. There, I felt that I was a soldier, an airman, an officer, like all the other officers, and I felt much better about it.

I graduated in ’58, so took four years, I must have gone there in 1954.

Going to graduate school…you don’t have much social life. So the social atmosphere was mainly going to school. I…went there…I had a teaching assistantship. And I ended up being a laboratory instructor for all of these kiddies from New Jersey, New York…and there was not a single black kid in my class. There were no black students, no black graduate students in the department. So I was alone there. You…think there are a lot of differences between races, but there are not. When you really get to know people…they’re all about the same. They love, they hate. They do mean things to each other, so there’s no great difference. So, I—I didn’t have a real social problem.

I remember once, though, I was getting ready to fly for the New York Air National Guard, and I had to buy a uniform, so I went to a store downtown in Syracuse to buy some khaki pants, and the clerk said, 'Khakis are right here,' so I went over to look at the khakis, and I didn’t quite see what I want, and what I wanted was khakis that had a little flap on the pocket, and so I got the…and I said 'This is what I want.' He said, 'Those are officers’ pants.' I said, 'I am an officer.' And that seemed to have surprised him, but…I went back to that store, and he and I had become very good friends. He was glad to sell me…pants or anything else I wanted. To tell you that even in those days, or these days, that we only have prejudiced people in the South, that’s not true. Prejudice is universal. And after awhile, you find that it becomes the individuals who’s prejudiced and not the whole society, and you find people who see you as an individual and…they have that kind of respect for you. On the other hand, they see you as an individual and they have disrespect for you."